The state Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has confirmed the Boston Conservation Commission (BCC) ruling that a portion of the 64 Allandale St. project falls under the state Wetlands Protection Act, according to a MassDEP letter sent to the developer.
A spokesperson for the developer Jacqueline Nunez and opponents of the project both said they are pleased with the ruling.
MassDEP conducted a survey in December after receiving an appeal from Nunez. The Boston Conservation Commission ruled last fall that the project does indeed fall under the act. There are no wetlands on the 64 Allandale St. property, but a portion of the property falls within a 100 foot buffer zone under the Wetlands Protection Act. That does not prevent Nunez from building the project, but she needs to jump more environmental review hurdles for it to happen.
“At the very least, this should reduce the amount of buildable land on the site, particularly in the area that immediately abutting sensitive wetlands and the restored, historic spring house,” said Tony LaCasse, an opponent of the current project, in an email. “Opponents of the proposed Wonder Group development do not deny the developer’s right to build under current zoning guidelines, but are united against such unprecedented, high-density use that would degrade the magnificent public asset of Allandale Woods.”
Frank O’Brien, another opponent of the project, echoed LaCasse comments, suggesting places near transit and shopping areas, such as Roslindale Square, are better for high-density housing.
“We look forward to working with the City and developer on a site appropriate plan consistent with the existing zone, protecting natural resources while meeting the property owner’s reasonable investment goals,” he said.
Susan Elsbree, a spokesperson for the developer, said that the development team is “pleased” that the “MassDEP decision has confirmed our understanding that there are no wetland areas located on the 64 Allandale site. In addition, according to the decision, almost all of the site is completely outside of Wetlands Protection Act jurisdiction.”
She said that construction on the portion of the site that falls under the act “would need to be carried out in a manner that avoids impacting the nearby wetlands. There are well-established methods in Massachusetts for protecting wetlands areas from construction in buffer zones. [The development team] will comply with standard best practices for managing this work.”
“With the clarity of the DEP ruling, [the development team] is excited to move forward on Allandale Residences—Boston’s first entirely net-zero energy neighborhood, which will be a national model for sustainable development, fortified construction, and inspired design,” said Elsbree.
Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) spokesperson Nick Martin said the ruling puts the authority “in a better position to engage with the Boston Parks and Recreation Department (BPRD) and the development team about the design of the project and the extent of the buffer zone.”
“We’re committed to having another community meeting where we can discuss the ruling with the public, and the development team can present its case for how to move forward,” he said.
The BRA has previously asked the developer for the 64 Allandale St. project to consider a conservation restriction that would create a buffer zone between the Allandale Woods and the development.
A conservation restriction was one of several recommended revisions the BPRD suggested in a letter to the BRA about the project.
The property at 64 Allandale St. is on the border of West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain. It is part of the West Roxbury Neighborhood District, as a matter of zoning. Nunez, a Dorchester-based developer, filed a project notification form (PNF) during the summer with the BRA for a $20 million, 20-unit development at 64 Allandale St.
The current proposal calls for building 16 new townhouses and creating four units at an existing house already on the property. The townhouses would be built in five different clusters, snaking down towards Allandale Woods and replacing a verdant landscape. The townhouses would range from three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half stories. The project would have 47 parking spaces, including seven spots for guests. The project would need several variances, such as for building height, floor area ratio, and setbacks.
The project would abut Allandale Woods, which is an “urban wild” of about 100 acres of City- and private-owned land in Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury. The woods is roughly formed by Allandale and Centre streets, the VFW Parkway and the Hackensack Road.
A community meeting for the project was held Oct. 6 with the majority of attendees speaking out against the proposal. Repeated objections were made over the density of the project, traffic concerns despite the development team’s assurance that the impact would be minimal, and the affect it would have on Allandale Woods, such as townhouses towering over a historic springhouse and the development possibly damaging wetlands.
People also questioned what the cost of the units would be, while pointing out that the project is expected to cost $20 million, which would mean the average unit would have to cost more than a million for the developer to make a profit. The developer has not revealed unit pricing or the affordability component of the project yet.
Several attendees spoke in favor of the project, some of who said they are friends with Nunez or live in homes built by her. They commented on how well she works with the community and the detail and benefits of the 64 Allandale St. project, including it being energy efficient, bringing much needed housing to the city, and being aesthetically pleasing.